In the latest defense against the still-rampant pandemic, China is using anal swabs as a way to test for COVID-19 infections. China’s state television network (CCTV) announced last week that health officials would be swabbing passengers arriving in Beijing, residents of quarantine centers, and other high risk populations, Forbes reported. Some folks are outraged at this “invasive” procedure, but what if anal swabs are more effective at detecting COVID-19?
Actually, they might be. A study from July, published in Future Microbiology, suggested that not only can anal swabs detect some COVID-19 infections that throat and nose tests miss, but that rectal testing can also detect the virus 4-5 longer after symptoms disappear in patients with COVID-19, according to Forbes. That’s because even though COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory infection, the virus sticks around longer in the gastrointestinal tract.
Luckily, experts don’t think that poop is actually a predominant mode of transmitting the virus, but there is evidence to suggest that aerosolized fecal matter caused many in a Chinese apartment building to become infected. Recent research also suggests that anal swabs may be a more accurate predictor of how severe a case of COVID-19 than other methods.
Li Tongzeng, deputy director of the respiratory and infectious diseases department at Beijing You An Hospital, told CCTV that the anal swabs were being used on “key populations” because they could be better at identifying mild or asymptomatic cases, Forbes reported. People who’ve had the anal swab aren’t exactly stoked about it, but they seem on board. “At first I was shy,” Alex Wang, a 21-year-old from Weihei, told VICE World News. “But I understood the country was under pressure to prevent outbreaks.”
Meanwhile, a lot of folks in the U.S. are describing these measures as “invasive,” “draconian,” and “undignified.” Are we serious, y’all? The rectal test involves putting something slim a mere 1-2 inches long in your ass — about the length of the first knuckle of your thumb — so it’s not exactly anal fisting. Are we really so prudish that we can’t handle a little biomedical buttstuff for the sake of public health? C’mon now. I say if it works, bend over.